HC Deb 13 July 2004 vol 423 c1254
13. Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con)

If he will make a statement on the Government's reaction to reported corruption at the UN during the oil-for-food programme in Iraq. [183367]

The Minister for Trade and Investment (Mr. Mike O'Brien)

We support the high-level independent inquiry approved by the UN Security Council on 21 April into the administration and management of the oil-for-food programme. Obviously, it is inappropriate for us to comment on the specific allegations of wrongdoing until the investigation has been completed.

Hugh Robertson

I thank the Minister for that answer. But given that Iraqi sources estimate that $10 billion was corrupted by Saddam Hussein and his immediate entourage, and that that money is being used to fund the insurgency that is threatening both Iraqi civilians and our troops, can he give the House more details about when the Government were first aware of this scandal, and what specific moves they are making to support an investigation, independent of the UN, which cannot of course conduct an investigation into its own corruption?

Mr. O'Brien

The Government became aware of some allegations. We were able to take some action on those during 2001. Before that, there were rumours for some time of things happening in Iraq. We were aware that the way in which this operation was being carried on meant that it looked like some illegal surcharges were being placed on the price of Iraqi crude oil. It looks as though there were some illegal surcharges on humanitarian contracts through inflated prices, agreements with suppliers to supply inferior items at reduced price with refunds of the difference, and a US dollar fee for unloading and transporting goods within Iraq. A number of issues were therefore being examined. Certainly, it has become clear that the independent investigation must consider all of those. We support the work that Paul Voicker is doing in carrying that out.

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